Wednesday, April 8, 2020

On Being an Author

I tend to write on manic impulse. I guess that's obvious. By happenstance, I have avoided or eschewed any disciplinary home for my writing. I sometimes even focus on the negatives to becoming embedded in the discourse of some particular discipline. I'm a 'whole picture' kind of guy, no matter how much more precise the read might be through some particular lense. It's partly a matter of whether you see yourself as inside or outside some kind of fractal wall.

I also don't believe that one's position on the inside or outside of any particular container determines anything about subject versus object. Our subjective self must also be the object of our investigation if we are to be an author.

Whole picture doesn't mean super-accuracy, just as expert disciplined writing can turn out to be quite wrong. I read things and can almost never find a place to hang the specifics for future reference. I don't think my mind can handle that kind of detail when any author is trying to outline their big picture. Still, when I sometimes re-read things that I once did read, I can find them familiar. Even stuff I wrote myself. So it has become a part of me, perhaps beneath my conscious and constructed self.

I can get pretty far into reading writing that is quite arcane, though I rarely feel the comfort of being a native there. Even reading Chinese, I know I can read at a higher level than a native youngster, or less-educated adult who's native. I think the same might be true of physics or sociology or journalism or many other scientific or layperson disciplines.

I often use the analogy (analogy never a proper argument makes, so sorry) of holographic media, where chopping up the media leaves an "accurate" image intact, though not a precise one. And the image proliferates, as it were, in the breaking up.

I have formed a sort of conviction than human minds are rather more like holographic media than computational engines. Indeed, I would go so far as to insist that nothing digital can analogize actual lived life, and might even constitute a sort of evil (if you're into that sort of language).

Crossing over into evil is never a function of usage. After all, digital technology can be a great tool, and like all tools - including written language - can be very useful. Evil enters in when there is an unwarranted belief structure which surrounds anything based on manic rapture alone. I have myself certainly been enraptured by computers and especially by networks.

I can be and have been more technical with that assertion about the digital, but I'm declaring it here as a conviction, or even a belief. Horrors.

Someplace, somehow, some long time ago, I inserted a tagline in or to this blog: 'author of my own life, dammit.' When I notice it, I feel embarrassed. I generally cringe at contemporary usage of the term "authentic," which I sometimes associate with the drone-like wearing of blue jeans, and all the worker, cowboy, hottie associations blue jeans have gathered.

Then there's that term authority. Just now in these United States, there is no trustworthy authority. Not in the media, not in the government, not anywhere because none of us feels like we are in the right position to know enough with enough certainty. And we mostly feel that those who are in such a position can't be trusted. Not even the New Yawk Fucking times, according to the assholes now controlling our narrative.

Or in other words, everything's become politicized. Authors everywhere are wondering what they're allowed to say and in that process bobbling any authority they might have had. Maybe they're wondering what they need to say if they want to get anyone to pay attention. Even scientists move into CEO slots and become less trustworthy thereby.

No, this is not some sort of apology for my craving of obscurity, although there is that, based mostly on a kind of shy trending toward terrified. I would love to write in a way that people wanted to read. Or in other words, I would love to be a novelist, or maybe a screenwriter.

I am often uncertain about what makes fiction a less reliable guide to what is true; and on the obverse (sorry, I've never been trained in logic, so I likely have the wrong term) what makes truth so much stranger than fiction.

There is this term in discourse - deus ex machina - which gets used and abused in ways to make it mean opposite ends in an oscillating pairing. It seems generally to be used to indicate a foul play by an author, like a plot insertion made purely to keep the plot's momentum going. It is a contrived plot device.

Many religionists form such a conception of God; that He is the Author of the cosmos and the authority who will save us, just like a lazy author deploying deus ex machina in his thriller.

But really the term refers to the (mechanical) device in Greek drama whereby the god/ghost is removed from the stage. It's a god removal machine, just like digital technology, I suppose. (There is no yes/no either or in nature). But even the Britannica, which refers to the Greek, talks about the crane which introduced the god on stage; a god insertion device.

The soul is often referred to as a kind of ghost in the machine of our physical body, decried by philosophers all; but a word that's hard to avoid in English. We conceive of the soul as noumenon, in distinction to the phenomena which are the proper objects for scientific study.

Just like counting angels by pinheads,, people have worried the matter of whether animals have souls. Definitely not, in Christian terms, even though sentient lifeforms are almost certainly conscious and have feelings - emotions - just like we do.

Our consciousness is enhanced by words; by language. People who are concerned with the "real" to the point of obsession - people like Noam Chomsky and Benjamin H. Bratton - don't seem to find much to value in the truths of creative fiction.

I admire Chomsky and Bratton - especially Bratton just now, as he refuses to see anything evil in the tools and instrumentation which has co-evolved with humans to the point where we are an existential threat to the living planet. He cautions against trying to go backward, and to unwind all of our technologies. He focuses on how we should be using it. He is right!

But I do value creative fiction, and I wish that I could write it. In the place of precise scholarly referents for my reading history, I would like to bring in my experience building and fixing things, and the insights of people I've known from all walks of life. Name dropping is fun, but it's not the famous people I've learned the most from.

Even though "social distancing" seems built into my DNA - my life plan - I seem able to get along with a wide variety of people and to enjoy them very much. It doesn't seem to bother me so much when people take an intuitive dislike to me; even when they turn from like to dislike. I don't really like myself all that much, much of the time. Even though I maintain good relations with several exes, it's clear that I have some trouble with long-term intimacy. Tant pis and quel dommage!

So, I'm joking about the usage of deus ex machina. I have to accept the conventional usage. I'm not quite so adept at truth telling as my heros are.

Still, it seems that we have generated a kind of god removal machine on the planet now. I'm talking about the whole hot mess of humans as we now live. At the head of the pack, as far as I can tell, are still the true believers in God the Author. God the Authority.That seems to still be de rigueur if you want to get elected. That's really too bad.

A god removal machine can't be a bad thing. It returns the narrative to something real. Educated audiences can only be disappointed when the author takes the cop out of this clunky literary device. It feels lazy, which is just the way I feel about myself as an author. Why, I said that about myself just the other day!

From the perspective of its explanatory value, one of the very best theses I've ever read was The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. For me, reading that was more exciting than reading any novel. I've had that experience with more than a few fiction and non-fiction books. I feel that my mind is changing when that happens, and that things come into focus.

Some of the time when I have that nearly euphoric feeling - I have to let myself down when I discover that what I've just read is "fake." I think I felt that way about Carlos Castaneda and his writing about the Yaqui warrior Don Juan. I guess I just wanted too badly to believe. I was less taken in by the Celestine Prophecy. And while Dan Brown's novels can make a fun read, I'm not sure I see much truth value there, beyond the Hollywood industrial-grade thrill.


I guess I'll never make it as an author. I still think that Julian Jaynes and Noam Chomsky and Benjamin H. Bratton are way less wrong than most people, and certainly way less wrong than me.

The trouble is that none of those three (and many other fine thinkers and writers) will write a better world into being. Hardly anybody bothers to read them. Their dazzling brilliance never rises to something that would sweep the world the way Star Wars does, or did. Censorship is never so brilliant as in a capitalist democracy.

Not even Faulkner. Not even Hemingway. Certainly not James Joyce or Quentin Tarantino, who are the soulless Paganini's of their media. Sublime, yes, but not in that way.

The Bible once did grip the world. Making that kind of fiction into Truth is getting really old now. Science was exciting until it got overrun by rampant unregulated capitalism. We need a better guiding narrative. In simple terms, that has been my life's work. I am just grandiose enough to keep trying, while humble enough to think that my prospects for success are about equal to my prospects to become president. I'm not really sure I want either "successes." Well, I'm nearly certain that I don't.

I just wish that someone would take over the burden. I keep looking and reading and listening and all I hear are crickets.

So, I'll keep trying. It isn't hurting anyone, and it makes a kind of sanity therapy for me.

Jaynes can't be completely correct, but in his terms, human consciousness now feels like it is "recameralizing." We are reverting to our pre-Biblical nature, with a feckless alpha male in charge, just because he channels the voices we wish were telling us what to do. And he has that hair-as-crown thing going on. It's all so weird.

I have to work to make my own consciousness story go beyond words; beyond language. Consciousness is a channeling of more than words. Consciousness channels a pervasive love-filled life-force that encompasses all of evolution. We are each a chip from a hologram that stretches across the medium of the cosmos.

I suspect, but can't be certain, that oracles like the I Ching or the Tarot or just the random of lived life where I am my own author are way more important than the choices we'd like to take credit for when they work out. I am no Paganini with my words. I am too earnest. I have poor command of even the English language.

Like Michelangelo using a chisel to find what's latent in a block of marble, a good writer doesn't start with some idea he wants to express. At least that's my conviction. The page has to be talking back. I mostly write to the void, and that's a problem. But that's because, though I like to play guitar and sing, I would rather die than to do that in front of an audience.

I guess artists can hear themselves, read themselves, do it in public and somehow know that it's good. That's a kind of proprioception that I apparently don't have and probably can't get. So I doubt I'll ever be able to be an artist. Well, except in the reductive sense that I am the author of my own life, and so far I've found it really interesting.

If that makes me a narcissist then I really do deserve to be president. The bar is that low, and honestly I can't even imagine how dull the life of a boor like Trump could even possibly be. No regrets here!

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